Earthquakes Strike Turkey and Syria


Salam Bouso, Arts Editor

The death toll soars over 36,000 after a series of devastating earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria, with tremors felt farther into neighboring countries. Causing widespread destruction and prompting immense rescue operations, these earthquakes are among the worst to hit the area in decades. Thousands of buildings have collapsed, crushing people beneath them, with many still trapped beneath the rubble. Those that have escaped are left homeless in freezing temperatures and in need of urgent aid. 

Turkey and Syria lie in an earthquake prone zone, sitting at an intersection between several continents and their geological plates. Experts say the earthquakes were caused due pressure build up from the plates’ movement. 

While earthquakes are common in Turkey and Syria, ones of this strength are a rare occurrence. In 1999, Turkey faced a similar earthquake that killed more than 17,000 people. Since then, the government made sure to implement strict building codes that would protect people from future earthquakes.

However, many structures in the area were constructed long before the building codes, often densely populated and housing working class people. Such buildings suffered “pancake” collapse in which the top floors directly collapsed onto the lower levels, making it impossible for those crushed underneath to escape. Builders were also able to pay for “construction amnesties” that exempt them from following safety protocols. Turkey’s government has issued an investigation of builders in the earthquake affected regions to hold them accountable for neglect of building laws. 

Over 30 countries have contributed to the rescue efforts by sending rescue teams, dogs, emergency equipment, and donations. While the disaster in Turkey has been met with many volunteers from around the world and relief shipments, international support is extremely low in the regions of Syria affected by the earthquake. 

In Syria, a country that has faced more than a decade of war, rescue equipment is scarce and earthquake victims are not able to receive the aid they need. Sanctions placed on Syria due to its civil war have limited the entrance of international aid despite the thousands of deaths. The US has announced a 180 day exemption on its sanctions against Syria to ease relief efforts but many other countries are still wary of entering the war torn country. 

Turkey’s president, Recept Tayyip Erdogan, has proposed a one year plan for reconstruction. He announced that housing units will be provided for victims, as well as apartment buildings that will be built for survivors. Turkey’s government will also distribute emergency relief of TL 10,000 (equivalent to $530) to each family. 

Across the border, Syria’s rebuilding efforts will be difficult. The areas affected by the earthquake are controlled by various groups ranging from the Syrian government to different rebel organizations. With crisis upon crisis, resources in the country are limited, and proper rescue equipment is sparse. 

Recovering from this disaster will not be an easy task, and as updates continue to come forward, it is imperative to highlight the importance of international support for those in need. For ways to help, please click on the SAMS foundation link attached: